Ventura’s New National Muay Thai Champion

An annual Muay Thai & Kickboxing tournament takes place on the East coast, this year it took place in New York City. We took it upon ourselves to fundraise to send one of our new Muay Thai Ventura fighters to the tournament. How new? Less than a year new.

Now, it’s not like this person didn’t put in tremendous time and dedication into training, they definitely did. When they first approached me about even fighting, I kind of shrugged it off as I knew they had a lot on their plate and might not even be able to make the time commitment to training for fighting. When I asked about this, they told me, “Well, I already dropped all of my college classes so I can focus on this.” Now I’m not saying you should quit school for Muay Thai, and my initial reaction was such… After talking it through for a bit, I decided to give this person a chance. We figured we would setup a fight here in California before heading out to New York for the WKA National Tournament. I put them in charge of fundraising for the tournament as well, and they stepped up!

This person was one of the 1st people to walk through the doors at our current location and began training in our Muay Thai Ventura that day.  We joked about them becoming a fighter, as they did have some athletic ability, but like I said, we were just joking! Meet our student Justine!


Justine’s 1st fight here in California at Hollywood Park Casino went off without a hitch. She overcame a lot in her personal & professional life to get into the ring. Not to mention her being fully dedicated to training for her fight, including dietary changes & lifestyle changes. Her opponent was much taller than her, but we trained Justine to handle EVERYTHING, as this was just a warm-up for the tournament a month after. She ended the fight with a very clean TKO victory in the 2nd round with punches & knees. The fight was on Saturday night and Justine was straight back to training on Monday for the tournament, completely injury-free.

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Justine's first fight & 1st win, 3 weeks before Nationals!

Justine’s first fight & 1st win, 3 weeks before Nationals!

The week of the fight, Justine was coming in around 10 lbs over her weight limit of 132 lbs, easy for a fighter with a good team to manage the temporary weight-loss. It turned out that the flight out to New York caused some water retention and we had to lose additional weight… About 16 lbs. That’s a big number but I’ve been through this with myself before and knew we could do it. Plus, Justine had been overcoming bigger obstacles. Over the 24 hours before the weigh-in, we managed a very methodical 16 lb weight cut. I’m not condoning any drastic weight-cut, but we didn’t fly across country to just not fight.

The following day after weigh-in, we had the night to re-hydrate and put the water weight back on to help perform how we trained. AT the tournament, it became very apparent that there was no order when it came to fight order… there were over 300 competitors at the event, that’s a lot of fights to have no order of when they would fight. We made the decision to tape up Justine’s hands and weight to hear Justine’s name be called for over 12 hours. So when they would call her name, we would have to warm-up, glove up and be in the ring in sometimes as little as 5 minutes. But that didn’t even happen the first day; the first day we didn’t even get to fight! Not many at the tournament even got into the ring, there was a lot of times that 2 of the 3 rings would be empty for 30+ minutes. It was terrible, but just another obstacle for our fighter to overcome.

The second day of the tournament, we arrived fully prepared to wait it out. We were taped up and ready to fight on a moments notice. I had Justine rest while I was pacing around for hours on end with the help of Alisa to figure out any news on when we would fight. After a couple of hours into the 2nd day, we heard Justine’s name called to dock up to the ring for her modified Muay Thai (no elbows) bracket.

Our warm-up pretty much consisted of dumping on Athlon Thai Oil with a quick massage to wake up the muscles then running to the ring to get the gear provided by the tournament to fight.

Justine’s first fight went as planned with good use of our game-plan for the tournament and won her 1st fight by a very clean decision.

1st win of tournament, 2nd fight ever!

1st win of tournament, 2nd fight ever!

After a quick celebration by the ring, as we would be fighting again, which is why we came to New York! We reverted back to Justine being relaxed in our spot and we were fully prepared to wait a few hours to fight again. Less than an hour later, we heard Justine’s name called for her other division, Full Rules Muay Thai. So back to our warm-up routine and rushing to the ring, Justine was a little tired from just fighting and she would be fighting an opponent who hadn’t fought yet in the tournament.

Her 2nd fight went great! It was awesome to see Justine use all 8 weapons of Muay Thai and showed very clear domination, even throwing her opponent out of the ring from the clinch. But fatigue can make you a little slow and Justine’s opponent edged out on points with evasive footwork to prevent the counter-strikes from Justine. Well-fought fight regardless! Justine lost by a close decision and was eliminated from the Full Rules Muay Thai bracket.

WKA Nationals this year was definitely an endurance contest.

WKA Nationals this year was definitely an endurance contest.

With no time to sulk on the loss, as we weren’t sure if we were going to have to fight again that day. Back to our area we went and had Justine back resting. There was a lot of mental coaching by this point, as she won and didn’t really get a chance to celebrate before she went back and lost. This is exactly why we were here though, as this was all valuable experience for Justine.

We waited around for another 7 hours to see if we were going to fight, with me running around trying to figure out any information the whole time. Back to our hotel we went!

The morning of the 3rd day of the tournament, Justine was feeling the effects of multiple adrenaline dumps, a 16 lb weight-cut, a couple of fights and back-to-back 12 hour days of waiting to fight. But it was a grind to get her physically prepared in training, she was ready & well prepared. Nothing a little coaching can’t help with.


The 3rd day of the tournament had a little more order, where the officials would randomly tape up pieces of paper with some semblance of a fight order, but they didn’t really update them and would often be old information. We made our best guess on when to prepare but we were also prepared to wait. Justine’s 2nd fight in the modified Muay Thai division would be against a team that I’d befriended while in Spain at the WKA World’s last year. I knew it would be a good fight but we did form a game-plan for Justine based upon a lot of the women’s fights. Justine battled another 3 rounds with her opponent and came out with another WIN in her modified Muay Thai division. Now we would have to wait for our final match against a very established team, gym & trainer.

Back to our warm-up area in a stairwell we went, just waiting & waiting. We knew it would be a long day before they started doing the finals matches as they were still doing semi-finals for a lot of divisions and hadn’t even started the junior divisions. Rest & recovery for the finals for most of the day, with what little food was available in the area.

Early in the evening, we were called up for our finals match, and as our previous warm-ups, they were short & fast. But we were actually called 3 fights ahead of when we would be up! We didn’t know this until we realized they kept passing other fighters ahead of us at ringside & our opponent taking a seat. Justine chose to stay standing and focused.

It was finally time for the final match! This was what all of the training & sacrifices lead up to. A fight for a National Championship Title. After only 10 months of training, here we were in a championship fight with Justine. Justine went in with our game-plan and executed! She got an 8 count on her opponent with punches and then continued to dominate for the rest of the fight.

I knew she won at the end of it, but you never know what the judges will say… but they agreed! Justine then became the WKA National 132 lb Muay Thai Champion!

Congratulations Justine on your hard work & dedication to Muay Thai

Congratulations Justine on your hard work & dedication to Muay Thai

That’s the story of how Justine brought her National Title back to Ventura and to our knowledge, becoming the 1st National Muay Thai Champion from Ventura, all in just 10 months!

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Jonathan Puu

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